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SIX: A HISTORY OF BRITAIN'S SECRET INTELLIGENCE SERVICE, Part 1: Murder and Mayhem 1909-1939 Hardcover – 15 Jul 2010


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Biteback (15 July 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1906447004
  • ISBN-13: 978-1906447007
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 16 x 3.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 390,950 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Michael Smith is the number-one bestselling author of Station X. He served in the British Army's Intelligence Corps and was an award-winning journalist for the BBC, the Daily Telegraph and the Sunday Times. He is now a full-time novelist and intelligence historian.

Smith is the author of a number of books, including The Secrets of Station X; SIX: The Real James Bonds and Foley: The Spy Who Saved 10,000 Jews. He is the editor of The Secret Agent's Bedside Reader, a compilation of writing on spies by spies, which includes the work of John le Carre, Somerset Maugham, Graham Greene and Kim Philby.

Smith's latest book is called The Debs of Bletchley Park and Other Stories and recounts the lives of the women who worked at Britain's Second World War codebreaking centre. He is currently writing a detective novel set in Nazi Germany. He lives near Henley-on-Thames in Oxfordshire.


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Review

"Engrossing... As a rollicking chronicle of demented derring-do, Smith's book is hard to beat. His research is prodigious and his eye for a good story impeccable, and his book, while perfectly scholarly, often reads like a real-life James Bond thriller."
--Dominic Sandbrook, Sunday Times

What Smith's excellent book teaches us is the imperative to keep intelligence detached from petty Whitehall squabbles and, above all, to be independent of political influence. --Professor Paul Moorcraft, RUSI Journal

"MI6 has certainly missed a golden opportunity to allow the public an "exclusive" insight into its history. Michael Smith s book covers events in more depth, features the identity of leading players, and affords readers and researchers an opportunity to seek further information. It is a brilliant work - meticulously researched and presented." --Mark Birdsall, Eye Spy Magazine

The tales of the Service s early years, now nearly a century old, are vividly told by author Smith, whose book is full of striking observations and asides. --Secrecy News from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy

The tales of the Service s early years, now nearly a century old, are vividly told by author Smith, whose book is full of striking observations and asides. --Secrecy News from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy

If you want to know every detail of how Mansfield Cumming, the original C, won the fight with the directors of intelligence to establish the independence of his new service... then Smith's is your book. --Hugh Bicheno, Literary Review

In SIX, Michael Smith takes a broad view, adding new stories, filling in details, using true names and dates, and perhaps most interesting, describing the reactions of government entities to the intelligence they received. --CIA Website

About the Author

Michael Smith, former intelligence officer and award-winning journalist, is one of the world s leading experts on Britain s spies. The defence correspondent of The Sunday Times, he is author of the number one bestseller Station X, as well as other acclaimed works including Foley and The Spying Game.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Mark Pack TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 19 Nov 2011
Format: Paperback
After decades of secrecy over even their chiefs' names, MI5 and MI6 in recent decades have started opening up their records and their personnel to authors of espionage and counter-espionage history. Christopher Andrew's various works played a key role in pioneering the independently written but officially blessed spy histories. Now it is an increasing crowded field with 2010 alone having brought two histories of the early years of what became known as MI6, with Michael Smith's volume Six being one of them.

Written by a former military intelligence officer, with extensive access to official records and good personal contacts, it is a detailed, comprehensive work heavily sourced to official documents and other authoritative sources. Despite this, it is by no means blind to the failings - including often viscous personal infighting and organisational turf wars - of the intelligence pioneers it documents.

There is much of a lively nature to retell - both the bureaucratic infighting and at time eye-watering incompetence of the Secret Service's early years alongside the dramatic stories such as the involvement of British agents in the murder of Rasputin, the larger than life career of the `Ace of Spies' Riley and even the undercover work carried out by popular children's author and journalist Arthur Ransome (of Swallows and Amazon fame but, as Smith explains, also deserving to be remembered for his brave service to the country).

On topics such as Riley and Rasputin, Smith sorts out the credible and the known from the exaggerated and the mythical, but these tales and those such as the smuggling of secrets inside boxes of Belgian chocolates are the exception in the book.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Ian Millard on 13 Sep 2010
Format: Hardcover
This is a finely written account, so far as it goes, of the British Secret Service (aka SIS, MI6) from 1909 to 1939. I would have given it 5 stars had it in fact been what it says on the cover, a "complete" "1909-1939" instead of being what it in fact is, a good but not complete account which more or less tails off to nothing after 1924.

I learned a lot in places, particularly about the assassination of Rasputin, that rather unpleasant but also misunderstood character. I knew a lady once who, as a young girl, had met several times Prince Yusupov, the main killer of Rasputin. I see from the account in this book that a person was involved of whose presence I had previously been unaware, namely Rayner, a British intelligence operative. It is claimed that Rasputin was not only beaten and killed but, in the interim time, tortured for information wanted by the British. The torture/beating was so severe that, it is said, Rasputin's testicles were "crushed flat". Not nice. The book also claims that the final fatal shot, after Rasputin's still living body was pushed almost under the ice of the winter Niva, was fired by Rayner, from his service revolver (a Webley, like the one shown on the cover of the book).

This story may be credible. Rasputin had opposed the pointless war with Germany (1914-1917) which, again as Rasputin predicted, would lead to the end of the Romanov dynasty and the country being taken over by devils until the "nobles" returned over two decades later (presumably he meant the officers of the Wehrmacht and SS). This last prediction is not in the book.

I should have liked to have given the book the full monty, but how can I, when the section 1924-1939 (1924 meaning the establishment of Soviet power on a state basis as the Soviet Union/USSR ---official foundation having been 1922--) is so slight?

Otherwise, a good read.
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By joanne hemming on 29 Nov 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a great book if you like your history.

Product is excellent quality

I would recommend to a friend
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By bilbo on 30 Nov 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
an interesting factual story about the development of the British Secret Service - this is not a "spy" thriller book, but a good ( hard ) read about the creation of the MI's originating in WW1
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 1 review
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Fascinating, but bogged down in details at times 27 Nov 2012
By ESM517 - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I love the history of secret service organizations and I had previously read one of MI5. This is the first volume in the history of MI6, running from 1909 through 1939. I did enjoy the history, but the autor too often gets bogged down in details, in particular names. Describing some kind of operation or agent network, he runs through sometimes 10 or more names in one paragraph. This is impossible for anyone to follow. At times, I was thoroughly lost as I felt he attempted to provide too much detail. The background on what went on within and outside the service was interesting, but could have been more so with simpler storylines. One additional caveat: his research of MI6 seems impeccable but alas not all the other parts were necessarily perfect. At one point, he describes Bayer as the largest chemical company in Germany in 1924. I researched this and found that in fact BASF was larger in 1924 with more than 2.5 times the sales. OK, this review is more negative than I wanted it to be. Overall well worth the read, but be prepared to slug through tons of details at times.
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